BY Michael Saul and Brian Kates
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepted David Letterman's apology Tuesday for what he admitted was a bad joke about her teenaged daughter getting "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez.
The former Republican vice-presidential candidate said she accepted the apology "on behalf of all young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."
Palin's statement came after Letterman said on his CBS "Late Show" Monday night that his joke was "beyond flawed" and "really, in and of itself, can't be defended."
Letterman said the June 8 gag, triggered by Palin attending a Yankees game in New York, referred to 18-year-old Bristol Palin, not her 14-year-old sister Willow.
But, he said in comments directed to Palin, "It's not your fault that it was misunderstood. It's my fault."
He went on to apologize to "the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I'm sorry about it, and I'll try to do better in the future."
In a statement Tuesday, Palin said that Letterman has the right to joke about whatever he wants to, and "thankfully we have the right to express our reaction....In this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."
Letterman's apology contrasted with last week's efforts to make light of the situation after Palin called the comments "sexually perverted," and her husband, Todd, said that "any jokes about raping my 14-year-old are despicable."
Last Wednesday, after two days of back and forth between Alaska's first family and Letterman, the Palins refused an invitation to come on his show.
Instead, Palin spoke out against Letterman on NBC's "Today" show, and called upon the public to rise up in opposition. Palin supporters have called for Letterman's firing, even starting a website, www.firedavidletterman.com.
Letterman referred to the fracas during his monologue and said he got a call from his mother earlier in the day telling him she was siding with Palin.
When he began a joke about Bernard Madoff, whom he called "the most hated man in America," then paused.
"Me, Bernie Madoff," he said. "He was way out in front until a couple of days ago."